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Police officer cleared in shooting death of murder suspect

The actions of a Las Cruces police officer who shot and killed 23-year-old Nathaniel Montoya on February 17, 2018 were justified, according to Third Judicial District Attorney’s Office.

Officer Joseph Campa, a seven-year veteran of the Las Cruces Police Department, returned to duty in Late February. After the deadly shooting, he ws placed on administrative leave, standard protocol.

ABC-7’s New Mexico Mobile Newsroom learned Officer Campa fired 12 rounds. Police would only say several rounds struck Montoya, allegedly armed with a loaded weapon.

A task force investigating the deadly shooting learned Montoya was the primary suspect in the February 16, 2018 shooting death of 29-year-old Abraham Gomez on the 2300 block of Sambrano Avenue.

A witness told investigators he saw Montoya and Gomez in a scuffle outside an apartment. Montoya fled the scene before police arrived and Gomez was transported to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead. The investigation revealed Gomez suffered a gunshot wound to his back.

Police learned Montoya left the Sambrano address in a Dodge Durango, but that vehicle was found abandoned the evening of February 16, 2018 on Bataan Memorial East between Roadrunner Parkway and Rinconada Boulevard. A witness told officers the driver of the Durango entered a purple minivan before it was seen heading east along Highway 70.

About noon on Saturday, Feb. 17, investigators learned the minivan was reported stolen. Its owner told police the vehicle was not running properly the day before, so it was left on the side of the road. Investigators believe Montoya exchanged the battery from his Durango into the minivan and was then able to start it.

Shortly after 5 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 17, an LCPD officer spotted Montoya driving the minivan on Galina Drive and initiated a traffic stop. The minivan briefly stopped but fled from the officer. The officer engaged in a pursuit that traveled south on Rinconada, south on Sonoma Ranch Boulevard and then west in the eastbound lanes of traffic on Lohman Avenue. Campa heard of the pursuit on his unit’s radio and joined the pursuit near Rinconada.

The pursuit, which reached speeds of 60 miles per hour, continued west on Lohman until the minivan entered the parking lot of the Valero Corner Store, at 1401 E. Lohman Ave., and crashed into several parked vehicles. Campa pinned his unit to the driver’s side of the minivan.

Investigators learned Campa exited his unit and gave several commands for Montoya to show his hands. Investigators believe that is when Montoya raised a firearm that appeared to be a sawed-off shotgun. Campa fired the 12 rounds rounds, striking the suspect. Montoya was pronounced dead on the scene. Police said the weapon in Montoya’s possession was later determined to be a .22 caliber rifle modified to resemble a shotgun. It was located between the two front seats of the minivan.

Police said a 33-year-old pedestrian, standing between two vehicles in the Valero’s parking lot, was injured when the minivan entered the property and struck several parked cars. Officers and a doctor who happened to be nearby provided first aid until the pedestrian was transported to a local hospital. His injuries were not life-threatening.

Investigators learned Campa was not wearing a body camera at the time. Campa had been working earlier in the day as part of the initial shooting investigation on Sambrano Avenue. He left the station, leaving his lapel camera to charge in its docking station, police said. Campa went home for a short while and, on his way back to the station for an overtime assignment, heard radio transmissions of the pursuit. He then joined other officers in the active pursuit.

Two surveillance cameras from the Valero store show the minivan speeding into the parking lot followed by several LCPD units.

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